We think it is important to publish details of judgement’s in Public Liability trial cases so that the Mutual and Members can use this valuable lessons learned information. It also demonstrates that the Mutual will try to defend liability claims where it feels appropriate. The details below have been provided by our legal colleagues at Clyde & Co who successfully defended this case.
The claimant, aged 14, suffered from Laurence Moon Beidl Syndrome which affected his eyesight. He was registered partially blind. The claimant often attended Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (“SRSB” – 1st defendant) for after school club and activities. SRSB took the claimant for a bouldering session at the premises of (“the Centre” – 2nd defendant).
Circumstances of Claim
Once at the Centre the claimant participated in warm up activities and then climbed one of the junior boulders. He did so with minimal assistance though he needed some help to get over the top of the wall. The wall had an enclosed chute/slide, which was popular with children, and which offered a means of descent. The chute was known to be fast. The claimant was instructed to slide down the chute and upon reaching the ground, he injured his ankle.
It was the claimant’s case that the enclosed chute was not safe for him, as his condition meant that his eyesight significantly worsened in dim conditions and that in going down the chute he had become disorientated.
It was accepted by all parties that the specifics of the claimant’s condition were not made known to the Centre staff, though the Centre knew he had a visual impairment. Visually impaired clients had used the chute in the past with no incidents, though the number was small.
The claimant alleged that the SRSB – 1st Defendant’s risk assessment in relation to the activity was inadequate and that a suitable assessment would have shown that the chute was not safe for this particular claimant. The Court agreed. Furthermore, the judge held that had the Centre instructors known that the chute was likely to disorientate the claimant, an alternative method of descent from the boulder wall could have been offered. The Court held that the Centre was not obliged by law to proactively enquire about the claimant’s condition and that it was entitled to rely on SRSB – 1st Defendant to draw any specific matters to the Centre’s attention.
The claimant was therefore successful in his claim against SRSB – 1st Defendant but unsuccessful against the Centre.
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